Naturalist Journeys, LLC - Small Group Birding and Natural History Tours

Death Valley Hiking and Nature Tour
Active Nature Adventure Tour with Naturalist Journeys

March 24-29, 2013, with a 4N pre-trip extension to Zion National Park March 20-24.

Press Release Nov. 28, 2012:
Death Valley Guided Tour with Hiking, Nature & Wildflowers Announced by Naturalist Journeys - full press release here!

“I enjoyed the camaraderie of our small group to explore Death Valley with Greg Smith’s great guiding experience.”
- Kathy Potrepka

“I never expected the diversity of experiences and scenery that I encountered. I never realized there was so much to see. The geologic history was interesting; I also loved the mining history. Greg is excellent! Very personable and fun, but also very well prepared and professional.”
- Sue Wolf

ZabriskieDeath Valley: this foreboding yet intriguing name belies the hidden wonders of this two million-acre national park.  From the Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level, to the 11,049-foot height of Telescope Peak, this park and surrounding areas of the Mojave Desert offer a diverse and exciting world to discover.  With adequate winter rains, spring wildflowers decorate the landscape with every color of the rainbow. What better way to explore it than on foot, on trails that vary from dry desert salt pans, to wind-sculptured forests in the mountains.

Nearly 1,000 different species of plants have been recorded in the diverse habitats of the Death Valley, including 19 species of cacti and 23 species endemic to the park.  More than 380 springs in the park provide habitat to five species of Desert Pupfish, relict populations from a wetter time in the region’s long history.  The valley is a geologist’s paradise, with nearly two billion years of history recorded in the rocks.  Layers of sandstone and limestone tell of times of great inland seas while volcanic features bear testimony to centuries of dynamic change.  Learn these stories as we hike some of the park’s most popular trails, and some favorites where we see few other visitors.

Death Valley - MojaveWalk amid sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons and salt pans remaining from ancient seas, lush hidden springs and cool mountain forests.  Look for Ring-tailed Cats, Kit Foxes, Kangaroo Rats, Black-tailed Jackrabbits, and Desert Bighorn Sheep.  Listen for sounds of desert birds in the clear morning air: Gambel’s Quail, Rock Wrens, Western Kingbirds, phoebes, and flycatchers.  Photographic opportunities abound, particularly in the magical, subtle light of dawn and dusk.  Blue skies frame the rugged Panamint Mountains of Death Valley, a sister range to the Sierras that reaches over 11,000 feet.  On the mountain slopes ancient bristlecone pines cling to windy ridges and Desert Bighorns find refuge from summer heat.

Burrowing OwlWe also take in some local culture and color – visiting local restaurants and the Amargosa Opera House. Miners, ranchers, and the Western Shoshone people all have left traces of their lives in the Mojave Desert Region; we pass by old mine sites and look for petroglyphs etched in rock walls on our hikes.  The average temperatures in March are in the 70s to 80s (though cooler in the mountains) – perfect weather for our hikes. So, shed your winter gear, get out the boots, and join us as we explore spectacular Death Valley National Park and surrounding areas of the Mojave Desert in this spring.

 

ITINERARY

Sun., Mar. 24 Arrival in Las Vegas / Red Rock Canyon / Death Valley National Park
After arrivals at the airport (by 2PM please), we travel west to Death Valley National Park. En route we pass through colorful Red Rock Canyon State Park, where we stretch our legs on a warm-up walk. Then it is on the park, for stunning views of Telescope Peak and the Panamint Range. Travel through the park's scenic landscape to the date palm oasis at Furnace Creek, where we have accommodations for the next four nights. Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight at the Ranch's Steakhouse.
Accommodations at Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley National Park (B,L,D)

Mon., Mar. 25 DVNP: Sand Dunes / Mosaic Canyon / Golden Canyon / Artist’s Drive
We start early in the morning with a walk among and atop the park’s amazing sand Mesquite Dunesdunes.  There is no set trail, and we wander dune ridgelines and valleys. At this time the light is dramatic, animal tracks are fresh and the world beckons us to explore.  We then drive a short way to Mosaic Canyon to hike amid a tapestry of rock colors and patterns.  In this cooler, shaded ravine we can learn about the complex geology revealed in the rock walls.  This is a good place to find Rock Wrens which nest in the area.
We return to our lodgings for lunch, a mid-day break, and – if you wish – a swim in the pool.  Trees around the facility may harbor Northern Mockingbirds, wintering Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Hermit Thrushes, and more. Later in the Wildroseafternoon we enjoy a walk through Golden Canyon, perfect at this time of day. Common Ravens dance overhead in spacious skies; on the trail we find a variety oflizards.  We end the day with a scenic drive to Artist’s Point, stopping for photos and to enjoy the cooling air and the spectacular late afternoon light.  Dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Accommodations at the Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley National Park, CA (B,L)

Tues., Mar. 26 DVNP:  Salt Creek / Mountain Vistas / Wildrose Peak Trail
Salt Creek, one of Death Valley’s major drainages, is home to the unique Desert Pupfish as well as a host of interesting birds and aquatic invertebrates.  We take a peek at the area on a short boardwalk trail. Raptors, migrants, and waders often frequent this small Kilnsvalley. With luck we may find Northern Harriers, Common Yellowthroats, American Avocets, and Greater Yellowlegs, as well as other species. 

From here we continue up in elevation for our full-day hike today, the most challenging of our trip, in the mountains above Death Valley. Be prepared, for at this elevation in March, we mayencounter snow!  The higher elevations quite a contrast to our hikes on the valley floor.  Today’s walk is a well-graded climb to Wildrose Peak with great, scenic rewards at the summit and along the way.  The summit is 9,064ft. and the round trip is 8.4 miles for those that wish to go the full way.  Others can linger over their picnic lunch and enjoy the views. On the trail we find conifer-loving birds such as Juniper Titmice, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Townsend’s Solitaires, Mountain Bluebirds, Red-breasted Nuthatches,and Mountain Chickadees.  Listen for calls of Clark’s Nutcrackers, Pinyon Jays, and Common Ravens, which may fly in to investigate our picnic lunch.  At the trailhead (6800ft), learn more about local mining history as we visit the picturesque remains of charcoal kilns left from the boom-and-bust endeavors in Death Valley. Dinner tonight is at another of the park’s restaurants at Stovepipe Wells.
Accommodations at the Furnace Creek Ranch  (B,L,D)

Dante's ViewWed., Mar. 27 DVNP: Zabriski Point / Dante’s View / Mt. Perry
We start the day with a trip to Zabriski Point and Dante’s View, where we can scan the entire panorama of DeathValley. In this dramatic setting, we outline the geologic events that created this stunning environment and you’ll have time to take some spectacular photographs in the morning light. This is the start of an 8-mile round trip hike to Mt. Perry, onewith rewarding views. We can go to the summit, or just as far as the group wishes today.  Along the route, we look for wintering White-crowned Sparrows, and newly arrived Ash-throated Flycatchers, Western Kingbirds and Green-tailed Towhees. Gambel’s Quail and possibly another quail relative, the Chukar are year-round residents which should make an appearance. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the trail.

Return to the lodge to relax, or some may want to return to the Sand Dunes area if the light is great, where we can stop for photographs and a wander!  Dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Accommodations at the Furnace Creek Ranch (B,L)

Death Valley - MojaveThurs., Mar. 28 Titus Canyon / Badwater  
This morning, we head out early, to the mouth of Titus Canyon which is cut deep into the Amargosa Mountains. We then walk into this remote and boldly sculpted canyon where we read the geologic story in the rock walls and, for those who wish to hike up a way, look for the rock art of early cultures along the waterways. Plants in this canyon exhibit many adaptations to the environmental extremes. We can hike as far up this winding canyon as the group would like, returning to the lodge for lunch or a swim at your leisure.

Death Valley - MojaveIn the afternoon, we take two hikes from Badwater, and time to explore the amazing salt pan to marvel at the immense sense of space! The permanent spring-fed pool here is not poisonous, but does contain large amounts of chloride, sodium and sulfate.  The surrounding area may be the hottest place in the world with temperatures reaching over 120+ degrees for more than thirty days each summer.  Our first hike is a moderate three-mile loop through the colorful badlands of Desolation Canyon and the second, an easy 1-mile walk to the Natural Bridge. We return to our accommodations at dusk, and driving back enjoy the sunset over Telescope Peak, followed by our farewell dinner.
Accommodations at Furnace Creek Ranch (B,D)

Fri. Mar. 29 Departures from Las Vegas
We return to the airport in Las Vegas today, a drive of about 3 hours. We plan to arrive by 10:30 AM so please plan on flights out after NOON – important as we simply cannot get there any earlier! If you wish to take an earlier flight, plan on going out the next day, and we’ll be happy to drop you at a hotel near the airport, or you can use the convenient shuttles of many of the casinos. This is Easter weekend, and you may just want to enjoy time in this iconic American city! (B)

 

PRE-TRIP EXTENSION

Las Vegas, America’s “Sin City” just happens to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful parks and wild lands of the American Southwest. 

Zion EastWe offer this short trip to Zion National Park, a premier destination, in combination with nearby Snow Canyon State Park, a hidden gem.  Enjoy scenic highlights, short (1-3 mile) walks, travel photography, wildflower and wildlife identification and birding. It can be booked as a pre-trip extension to our Death Valley National Park journey, or as a short stand-alone trip for those with limited time, or those making a holiday of time in Vegas, wishing some of their wilds to be on the natural side.

Wed., March 20 Arrive in Las Vegas / Zion National Park
Please plan to arrive in Las Vegas by 1PM.  From here we drive east to Zion National Park, a scenic drive through Mojave Desert, which at this time of year can have some great wildflowers that lure us to stop.  We pass through Mesquite, a small, casino-oriented town on the Utah / Arizona border, and quickly after this start to climb. The highway follows a remarkable route up the Virgin River Gorge, where ancient rock layers are Bighorn Sheeprevealed. Stunning red and tan cliffs prevail, and as we top out near St. George, Utah, they stand as a backdrop to town.  From St. George it’s about an hour and a half to our lodgings, which are along the Virgin River as it flows through Springdale, Utah.  We stop for photos en route, and visit historic Grafton, a great spot for local history, and with productive orchards, a nice spot to look for birds such as Red-naped Sapsuckers, Cooper’s Hawks, Vermilion Flycatchers, Say’s Phoebes, and Greater Roadrunners.

Tonight we dine together at a great local restaurant in Springdale.
Accommodations in Springdale (D)

Hiker in Zion National ParkThurs., March 21 Highlights of Zion National Park
We have a full day to explore this treasured Southwestern national park.  Zion is quite different from the Grand Canyon in character, a fantastic realm of steep canyon walls and great domes and towers rising above the Virgin River.  Instead of looking down on the features, we gaze up, and vistas abound.

We use a convenient shuttle bus system to see the park with the opportunity to walk a number of short vista point trails. Witness the bold power of erosion and the Earth’s movement. Local highlights are the Narrows of the Virgin River, the Emerald Pools, and the Weeping Wall. 

The deep chasm of Zion Canyon displays a palette of reds, oranges, deep salmon, pink, yellow, and cream. Learn more about how the canyon formed, and what life forms occurred in the layers at the time of their origins.

We also look up, for California Condors frequent the canyon. Along the trails we may find Black-throated Gray and Yellow-rumped warblers; Black-headed Grosbeaks; a lizard sunning itself; a secretive Ring-tailed Cat; or other local wildlife. Along the Virgin River we California Condor, Zion National Parkmay find American Dippers, Black Phoebes, and Rock and Canyon wrens. Time passes quickly!  We plan on exploring together through a picnic lunch, and in the afternoon, some may wish to extend themselves on a longer hike, while others return to see exhibits at the Visitor Center or do some shopping in town. Shuttle buses connect points in town with the Visitor Center so you can come and go and back in town, have dinner at your leisure.  Not that on free evenings for dinner, many dine together and we can help with any needed reservations.
Accommodations in Springdale, UT (B,L)

Fri., March 22 Zion National Park, UT
Today we explore some more remote sections of Zion National Park, venturing higher in elevation to lush Ponderosa Pine forests near a small reservoir. The scenery is just stunning and with luck we find higher elevation birds such as Steller’s Jays, Pygmy Nuthatches, raptors and possibly California Condors.  Enjoy a walk through tall Ponderosa Pines out to a vista point, and then time in a desert wash at a lower elevation upon return.

After a lunch in town and a break, we venture through the Zion Tunnel to walk and enjoy some travel photography at fascinating Checkerboard Mesa. Here a one mile hike takes us to a great viewpoint to savor afternoon light playing off the rock walls so vibrant in this canyon.

Dinner tonight is at your leisure and we can point out our favorite local restaurants.
Accommodations in Springdale, UT  (B,L)

KolobSat., March 23 Kolob Section of Zion / Snow Canyon State Park / Red Mountain Resort 
This morning we depart Zion National Park proper, but see a section of it that holds great beauty, en route to St. George and our resort lodgings near Snow Canyon State Park.

The Kolob section has massive carnelian walls that we see from viewpoints on a scenic drive.  At the upper end of the drive we take a short walk for stunning views, then continue on to St. George, where we have lunch, then check into our very lovely lodgings at Red Mountain Resort. 

In the late-afternoon we venture to Snow Canyon State Park, a place where deep black lava runs across striated red rock sandstone – quite a site!  In addition to striking geology, the park holds biological interest, as it rests at the junction of Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert and the Colorado Plateau. We hope to find wildflowers in bloom to add colors to the varied and complex patterns of rock and sky.
Accommodations at Red Mountain Resort (B,L,D)

Red Mountain Resort

Sun., March 24 Snow Canyon / Las Vegas
This morning, enjoy sunrise in the park if you wish and a short walk before returning for breakfast, time to pack up, and the drive back to Las Vegas.  Or book a massage at the lodge’s fine spa.  We plan to leave about 10:30AM, to be at the airport by 12:20PM.  Those departing should plan on flights out after 2PM.   Those staying on for our Death Valley tour can have lunch at the Hard Rock Café, convenient to the airport, at your leisure, while our guide, Greg Smith, drops off and picks up others at the airport, and resupplies ahead of continuing into Death Valley. (B)

 

Death Valley - MojaveDante's ViewMojave sunset wash palmsLizardGambel's QuailMosaic Canyon

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COST OF THE JOURNEY
Cost of the journey is $2250.00, based on double occupancy, from Las Vegas, NV. This cost includes accommodations for 5 nights, meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, other park and program entrance fees and miscellaneous program expenses. The cost for the four night pre-trip extension is $965.00, single supplement $235.00.

Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Las Vegas, Nevada, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar; or gratuities for luggage handling or personal services. With fewer than 6 participants, a small-group surcharge (typically $100-200 per participant) may apply, or we may request that you pick up the cost of a few additional dinners in lieu of that surcharge.

Single supplement, as available, is $575.00.  

COST OF THE EXTENSION
Cost of the journey is $965.00, based on double occupancy, from Las Vegas, NV, when booked with our Death Valley Journey, $1075 if booked as a stand-alone. This cost includes accommodations for 4 nights, meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, other park and program entrance fees and miscellaneous program expenses. single supplement is $235.00.

Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Las Vegas, Nevada, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar; or gratuities for luggage handling or personal services. With fewer than 6 participants, a small-group surcharge (typically $100-200 per participant) may apply, or we may request that you pick up the cost of a few additional dinners in lieu of that surcharge.

TRAVEL INFORMATION
The airport for this tour is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS). Note that almost all major airlines have flight routes to Las Vegas, and some carriers such as Sun Country often have excellent prices on charter service as well. Plan to arrive by 2PM on March 24 (or 2PM Sat. March 20 if on extension) and plan to depart after NOON on March 29 onwards. We have left the weekend days open on either side of your tour if you wish to sample the vibrant life of Las Vegas! Or, join us in time to see other scenic and wildlife highlights of the region on our 4N pre-trip extension.

TRAVEL INFORMATION (EXTENSION)
The airport for this tour is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS). Note that almost all major airlines have flight routes to Las Vegas, and some carriers such as Sun Country often have excellent prices on charter service as well. Plan to arrive by 1PM on March 20 and plan to depart after 2PM on March 24 if not continuing on to Death Valley.

Naturalist Journeys, LLC is an equal opportunity service provider and committed to the goal of ensuring equal opportunity for all in employment and program delivery.

Photo Credits:
Hikers between rocks, Zabriskie, Burrowing Owl, Dante's View, Kilns, Bighorn Sheep, Mesquite Dunes, Kolob, sunset Washington palms, Zyzzx Pond, yucca night lizard, Death Valley Overlook, group of 4 on hill and twosome on road, Greg Smith - to see more of his images, go to: www.flickr.com/photos/slobirdr/; Red Mountain Resort - www.redmountainresort.com; California Condor, Narca Moore-Craig; Gambel Quail, Lynn Feryus; Peg in flowers, Gary Conover; all other photos by Peg Abbott.

Naturalist Journeys LLC, a top birding and nature tour company, offers specialty small group travel to many of the best nature destinations worldwide. Naturalist Journeys’ expert guides have decades of experience leading guided nature and birding tours as well as travel photography tours, all with a focus on responsible travel and eco-tourism. Naturalist Journeys also offer Utah hiking adventure tours and adventure travel in national parks and wildlife reserves ranging from in-depth Alaska wildlife tours to guided Texas and Florida birding tours. Costa Rica nature and birding tours are among our top-rated as are our Panama nature tours and African wildlife safari tours. Our many repeat clients enjoy dependable and diverse holidays on Galapagos nature tours, Arctic and Antarctica nature cruises, and birding and wildlife tours from Arizona to the Amazon and beyond.